Research Article

Future People, Involuntary Medical Treatment in Pregnancy and the Duty of Easy Rescue


a1 Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics Julian.savulescu@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

I argue that pregnant women have a duty to refrain from behaviours (e.g. taking illicit drugs) or to allow certain acts to be done to them (e.g. caesarean section) for the sake of their foetus if the foetus has a reasonable chance of living and being in a harmed state if the woman does not refrain from those behaviours or allow those things to be done to her. There is a proviso: that her refraining from acting or allowing acts to be performed upon her does not significantly harm her. This duty does not presuppose that the foetus is a person. It is grounded on principles of respect for the interests of sentient beings and prevention of harm to future individuals. I give an argument for a general duty of easy rescue.


Thanks to Peter Singer, Roger Crisp, Lynn Gillam, Justin Oakley and Tony Hope for valuable comments on earlier drafts.